The eight-year-old had received the LEGO games Minotaurus and Wild Wool (aka Shave A Sheep) for his birthday. We played them and had fun, but it seemed like there were more possibilities than the simple rules these game offered. I started to think about ways to use the Lego game components with a somewhat more advanced gameplay. Fooling around with his bricks led to a prototype ship design, which was simplified when I realized we’d need to do in five different colors. I hashed out the rules (with pictures, thanks LEGO Digital Designer!) and ordered the prototype bricks from Pick-A-Brick. Space Traders began life as Star Traders, until my good friend BoardGameGeek.com told me that there was already a game of that name by some jokers named Steve Jackson and Isaac Asimov.
A name change later, we rounded up the usual suspects and played a test game. It flopped. Hard. The game took too long, people had a hard time keeping track of what they had done and the younger players were not getting into it at all. So I revisited the rules, simplifying some things and trying a different turn sequence. It flopped. Slight Less Hard. A playtester said it he was impressed that I had created the feeling of the hard slog through Twilight Imperium in only two and half pages of rules. A long discussion followed and major changes were made to the game. A third playtest commenced and we had a victor! Of course, there were a lot of refinements and more playtesting to come, but the moral of the story is that every game needs to be playtested… a lot, and the designer must be willing to make changes to a game.